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Disclaimer
SELF-HELP CENTER

REPRESENTING YOURSELF

     You may represent yourself in a lawsuit. If you represent yourself in a lawsuit without an attorney’s assistance you are called a pro se litigant. Pro se is a Latin phrase which means “for oneself” or “on one’s own behalf.” Pro se litigants are also called self-represented litigants. In criminal matters, you have a constitutional right to represent yourself. In civil matters, there is no such right but it is a choice made by you. However, in some cases where a corporation is a party, attorneys are required to appear on the corporation’s behalf.

     Although you can represent yourself, when you enter the courtroom you are tasked with having the same knowledge of the court process as an attorney. This can be a daunting endeavor especially if you did not attend law school. In an effort to better navigate the Rhode Island court system, we have created a Self-Help Center which may answer many of your questions and direct you to find the information you need to represent yourself.

 

HERE IS WHAT JUDICIARY EMPLOYEES
CAN DO TO HELP YOU

  • Give you guidance. If you ask employees “could I,” “can I,” or “how do I,” staff can instruct you how.

  • Give you information about court rules, procedures, and practices and answer questions about how the court system works.

  • Allow you to view your court file or other public files and provide copies of documents for a charge.

  • Give you court forms and general information about how to fill them out. Employees cannot complete any forms for you.

  • Answer questions about the computation of deadlines or due dates.

  • Give you information about court schedules and calendars.
  • Give you general information about how to get legal assistance. Employees cannot recommend a specific lawyer.

  • Give you information about mediation, parenting courses, courses for children of divorcing parents, and community services.

  • Direct you to our law libraries in our courthouses.

  • At the State Law Library, help you find aids and tutorials to assist you in your legal research.

HERE IS WHAT JUDICIARY EMPLOYEES
CANNOT DO TO HELP YOU

  • Give you legal advice. Staff cannot answer any “should I” questions as they involve making decisions about options, assessing risks and benefits, and analyzing potential outcomes.

  • Tell you whether to file a case, what specific action you should take, or if there is another procedural alternative in your case.

  • Allow you to talk to a judge or magistrate privately or give them any messages on your behalf.

  • Give out information that allows one party an advantage over another.

  • Give information to one party and not the other(s).

  • Change or alter any court records in a file.

  • Conduct legal research on your behalf. 

  • Tell you what to say in court.

  • Be responsible for service of process.

  • Prepare a court order for you or any other document after a hearing.

  • Predict a probable outcome of your case.
 
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Legal Assistance
To follow are some helpful resources:
Rhode Island Bar Association
Armed Forces Legal Services   Project
Lawyers for the Arts
Lawyer Referral Service
Lawyer Referral Service for the   Elderly
Rhode Island Bar Association
  Volunteer Lawyer Program (VLP)
Rhode Island Commission for
    Human Rights
Rhode Island Legal Services, Inc.
Rhode Island Office of the Attorney
    General – Civil Division
Rhode Island Office of the
    Public Defender
  
Rhode Island Judiciary 2011 Website Use Policy